For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

9:1.  "And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof;"  

9:2.  "That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord."

We are reminded in Eph 6:12 that, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places," and it is generally recognized that Israel's literal foes represent those evil forces against which we too have to fight.  Not the least of those enemies is the flesh, the old nature within us, warring ceaselessly against the spirit, as described by Paul in Romans chapter 7.  It is clear that God intends us to see in Israel's battles with the tribes of Canaan typological pictures of our own warfare, the record of those conflicts having been preserved in Scripture for our instruction, as it is written, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" Ro 15:4.

First, we note that while undoubtedly more were involved, only six tribes are named, and six is the number of man in his weakness and natural propensity to sin, so that there being six of them supports the view that this enemy coalition represents the flesh in the believer.

Then they were "... on this side Jordan," i.e., the Canaan side; and since it was the territory given to Israel for a possession it represents the spiritual realm into which faith brings us the moment we trust in Christ as Savior.  Their presence there further confirms the view that they are types of the flesh, for where the believer is, there also is the flesh. 

Their location is further specified as being "in the hills ... valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea."  The mention of these three parts which constituted Canaan, reminds us that man consists not only of body, soul, and spirit, but that he has also been created in the Divine image as a creature of intelligence, emotion, and will, the same three attributes which constitute God Himself.  It is significant that it was in these same three areas that Satan attacked the first Adam in Eden, and the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the wilderness.  The hills, valleys, and coastal regions of Canaan therefore may correspond to the three parts which constitute the complete man - intellect, emotion, and will.  As the enemy dwelt in the three regions which constituted Canaan, so does the flesh dwell in the three parts which constitute man, and it dwells there as the enemy.

Since the Jordan speaks of death, particularly our death with Christ, the presence of the enemy on the Canaan side of the river, which represents the sphere of faith into which we are brought at conversion, reminds us that the foe represented by the Canaanites, dwells in that same sphere, and will exert every effort to prevent our living in holy separation from the world unto God.

A careful reading of Scripture, however, reveals that hills speak frequently of the Christian's place of separation from the world, as one who dwells with God above the things of earth from which he has been separated by the cross of Christ.  But the hill or mountain also speaks of the quiet place to which every believer ought to retire every day to be alone with God, hearing God's voice speaking to him from the pages of Scripture, and God hearing his voice in prayer.

The extent to which the enemy has remained in possession of "the hills" is declared by the fact that the lives of very many professing Christians yield very little evidence of the separation discussed above.

In Scripture the valley speaks of the sphere of fruitfulness and service, and again the sad fact remains that many professing Christians are too busy with the things of this present world to have time either to produce fruit for God, or to render Him any service.  Such barren lives announce the sad truth that the enemy remains in control of "the valleys."

The sea represents earth's unconverted masses, see Isa 57:20, and since Canaan was bounded on the west by "the great sea, the Mediterranean," the spiritual truth being declared is that here on earth we too live "in all the coasts of the great sea": the unconverted are all around us.  It is the responsibility of every believer to be a spiritual fisherman, using the Gospel to fish for souls in that great sea of unconverted humanity, from which we ourselves were lifted through the faithful service of some believer who was willing to obey the Lord's command, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" Mk 16:15.

It is also instructive to note that in Scripture the west always speaks of approach to God.  The further we are willing to go into "the great sea" in search of precious souls, the closer we will be to God, for the value He sets upon men's souls is revealed at Calvary where the Lord Jesus Christ was willing to die a terrible death to make their salvation possible.  It is sadly apparent that the majority of professing Christians are satisfied to leave the "fishing" to a very small minority.

"... over against Lebanon."  The spiritual significance of Lebanon, meaning "whiteness," will be understood when we remember that it was the great mountain range that was Israel's northern border beyond which she was not to go.  A mountain is the Biblical symbol of a powerful king and/or kingdom; white is the symbol of righteousness; and the North is the Biblical direction that speaks of worldly wisdom, the opposite of faith, which is always represented by the South.  These facts combine to present Lebanon as being a figure or type of the world's wisdom which always presents itself as a righteous thing, but in regard to which God has nothing good to say, see 1 Co 1:17-31. The worldly wisdom represented by Lebanon is always "over against" the great sea of unconverted humanity, and James speaks of it as being "earthly, sensual, devilish" Jas 3:15.  It is a deadly foe which deludes multitudes, its seeming righteousness disguising its true nature, and blinding its dupes to the truth of the Gospel.

The meanings of the names of the enemy tribes enlighten us further as to the nature of the flesh residing in every believer.  First there is the Hittite, meaning terror.  This Canaanite represents fear, in regard to which we read, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," Ps 111:10; but, "The fear of man bringeth a snare...." Pr 29:25.  It is fear of man's mockery, hatred, persecution, etc., that has kept many a sinner from trusting Christ; and it is the same fear that has kept many a believer from being an effective witness for Christ.  Every time fear of man is allowed to impair or silence my witness, the "Hittite" has conquered, remaining in possession of the portion I should have claimed through faith.

The second enemy is the Amorite meaning a sayer."  The number of Christians who are continually talking about spiritual things, but who never do anything to advance Christ's kingdom, is eloquent testimony to the success of the "Amorite" in retaining control of the portion from which he should have been expelled.

Next is the Canaanite, obviously the name of a specific tribe, rather than the generic name for all of them.  It means a trafficker, a name having a bad connotation, for it indicates illegal trading.  There are countless ways in which we may leave the "Canaanite" in undisputed possession of what the Lord intends us to possess.  Rather than attempt to list them, however, we should recognize that impurity of motive is at the bottom of all spiritual trafficking, and a healthy exercise for all of us would be to examine the motives behind all of our "religious" activities.  For example, Am I in fellowship in a local church because God's Word is obeyed there, or am I there mainly because it has a lot of youth activities for my children?  Do I distribute tracts because I have a genuine concern for men's souls, or because secretly I want to be admired by other Christians?  Is my study of Scripture for the purpose of equipping me to better serve the Master, or is there the secret wish to be thought knowledgeable?  Is my giving the expression of love for Christ, or simply an attempt to be thought generous. The list of "trafficking" activities is a long one; but basically, when a specious motive is detected, there is the "Canaanite" occupying the place God intended me to possess.

The next enemy mentioned is the Perizzite, meaning rustic, with squatter as a possible second meaning.  Literally a rustic is one who lacks sophistication or learning; one who is uncouth or boorish; one who is occupied with the earth.  There is no excuse for a believer's remaining untaught in spiritual things, for Jas 1:5 assures us, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."  The believer who never rises above occupation with earthly things, is disobedient, for we are commanded, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth," Col 3:2.  Failure therefore to "... grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," 1 Pe 3:18, advertises the fact that the "Perizzite" has not been dispossessed.

The second meaning squatter, also has something to teach us.  Literally a squatter is one who settles on land without right or title, and it is very possible for us to be mere spiritual "squatters."  Apart from the terrible possibility that I may be occupying a place among God's people without ever having been born again, there is the possibility that, though a believer, I may be holding an "office" for which I have no spiritual qualification.  For example, we all, I'm sure, know men who take the place of being elders, who evince no qualification other than old age.  There are men occupying positions of leadership in many a local church solely on the ground of professional ability, some by just being "pushy," but without the necessary spiritual qualification.  There are those taking the position of teachers, for example, whose only qualification is that they have graduated from a seminary or Bible School, but who very obviously lack the necessary spiritual gift.  These are the things that reveal the "Perizzite" left in possession of what belongs to faith.

Hivite means shower of life: liver.  In this enemy we have portrayed the erroneous philosophy of many believers, expressed in the trite advice, "Let your life be your testimony."  On the surface this seems wise, since it precludes any inconsistency between the profession of the lip and the conduct of the life.  God's order, however, is that the faith in the heart is to be confessed with the mouth, "... if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart ... thou shalt be saved," Ro 10:9.

There is a deadly danger inherent in making the outward morality of the life the only testimony to the inward faith.  Those who see only the morality of the life, but who are never told that it is the result of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, may conclude that all that is needed to fit them for heaven is a reformed life.  Many Christians whose lives are exemplary, but whose lips are silent, might be shocked to discover that the very people they are hoping to win to the Savior, are instead being lulled along the road to hell by the false belief that all they need is morality.  It is a thousand times better, if necessary, that men should see inconsistency between my profession and my life, than that they should be deluded by my failure to confess Christ with my lips.  It is Satan who whispers, "Let your life be your testimony," and when I follow his insidious advice I am leaving the "Hivite" in undisputed possession of the place from which I should have expelled him.

And finally there is the Jebusite, meaning he will be trodden down.  While certainly there is the obvious general deduction to be made that unless the flesh is "trodden down" by the spirit, the latter will be "trodden down" by the flesh, we must understand the typical teaching in the light of the knowledge that ultimately it is the flesh that will be trodden down.  As our daily victories, however, are won, not in our own power, but in Christ's, so will it be in regard to that final victory.  His contemplation of the conflict between the flesh and the spirit led Paul to cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death (lit., this body of death)?"  But his anticipation of ultimate victory produced the triumphant exclamation, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin," Ro 7:24-25.

That all the varied activity of the flesh is but the evidence of a unified enmity against Christ and His own, is symbolically disclosed in verse two of our chapter, "... they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua (type of Christ) and with Israel (type of the Church), with one accord."

9:3.  "And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,"  

9:4.  "They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up;"

9:5.  "And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy."

In Dt 20:10-17 God had commanded Israel, "When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaimn peace unto it.  And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.  And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it ... and thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword.... Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee ... but of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: but thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee."  One can't but wonder whether these Gibeonites hadn't heard of this command from God, and in a desperate attempt to save their lives had decided to secure protection under this covenant, hoping against hope that it would hold good when their trickery was discovered.  If so, then it gets down to the fact that they were pinning all their hopes on the belief that once God's promise was given through Joshua, even though obtained by deceit, it would hold good.  This is the attitude of saving faith.  It clings to the immutability of God's word.

Gibeon means little hill: hilly, and as we learn from verse 7 these men of Gibeon were Hivites meaning showers of life: livers the spiritual significance of which we have already considered.  Warned by what had befallen Jericho and Ai, they feared Joshua and Israel, and unlike the other Canaanites, realized the folly of opposing these people whose God had delivered the land into their hands, so they wisely choose to try to secure their own safety by means of a covenant of peace.

Since the other Canaanites represent different aspects of the flesh (the old nature) in the believer, consistent exegesis requires us to view these Gibeonites in the same light - they too must represent some particular aspect of the flesh in the believer, and it seems, in fact, that they represent the body itself through which the flesh carries on its activities. The body, which in the unconverted man serves the old nature, is to be in the believer the servant of the new nature.  The very same intellect, emotion, and will, which in their unregenerate state expressed themselves in the activity of the body, are now in their renewed state also to express themselves through the activity of the body.  As we will see in our study of verse 21 that is exactly what is portrayed in their being made "hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation" after their dissimulation was discovered.

It is significant that God interrupts the flow of the historical narrative to present us in this episode with a beautiful picture of the gospel going out in all the fullness of grace to transcend law.  In Dt 7:1-2 God instructed Israel in regard to the Canaanites, "... thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them, thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them."  See also Dt 20:10-17.  With regard to the  Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, the command of the Lord was, "Thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: but thou shalt utterly destroy them."  As in the case of Rahab, however, grace would remit the sentence of law where there was faith to believe in God and seek His mercy.  This the Gibeonites did, and thereby saved their lives.

It was the report of what God had done to Jericho and Ai that had instilled this fear in their hearts.  Fear of God is the necessary precursor of salvation.  A "gospel" that fails to induce this fear is unlikely to produce genuine conversion.

In the disguised condition of these Gibeonites we have a symbolic picture of the actual condition of all who are unsaved.  "They ... made as if they had been ambassadors...."  They were pretending to be what they weren't; and it is with just such pretence that many first begin to seek salvation; but salvation is unavailable until all pretence is dropped, and the lost, helpless state is acknowledged.

"... old sacks upon their asses."  This is the first mentioned item of their disguise, and since the sack was that which held the man's goods, the condition "old" reminds us that since Adam, Satan has used the world's "goods" to keep men away from God.

The ass represents the body of the unbeliever, the wild ass portraying the body without any restraint on the lusts of the flesh, while the domesticated or bridled ass pictures the body under some measure of moral restraint.  The asses of these Gibeonites therefore, carrying the sacks, remind us that many a man, moral but unsaved, goes through life weighed down with the things of this world, all unconscious of the far more deadly weight of unpardoned sin that will ultimately sink him into the depths of the lake of fire.

"... and wine bottles (skins), old, and rent, and bound up."  Wine is the Biblical symbol of joy: the true joy of the believer, or the false joy of the unbeliever.  These skins, like the sacks, were also old.  Since Adam, Satan has employed the "wine" of the pleasures of sin to induce the spiritual equivalent of the drunken state that renders man incapable of rational thinking.  Multitudes, drunken with the pleasures of this world, stagger blindly along the roadway of life toward that same lake of fire that will swallow them up, together with those who were so busy with this world's business that they had no time to attend to spiritual business.

The skins might be old and rent, but we do well to note that they had been "bound up."  Satan always manages to patch up the "wineskins" so that as quickly as the "wine" runs out - and it does run out quickly - he may pour in enough to keep his dupes drunken.  Someone - delivered, but recalling his former state - has written, "I tried the broken cisterns, Lord; but, ah, the waters failed.  E'en as I stooped to drink, they fled; and mocked me as I wailed."

"And old shoes, and clouted upon their feet...."  The foot is the Biblical symbol of the walk or manner of life, and the shoe is the symbol of separation.  Those old, patched shoes represent the vain traditions in which men walk; and like the bread and the wine, they too are old: they go back all the way to Adam.  Tradition, however, can produce no other separation than that of the proud "holier than thou" attitude of the Jews whom the Lord denounced with His scathing, "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.... Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth ... but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men," Mt 15:6-9.

"... and old garments upon them."  Garments represent righteousness, either the "filthy rags" of self-righteousness, or the righteousness of Christ that covers the believer.  Again the qualifying description is "old."  Man's attempt to fit himself for God's presence through self-effort began with Adam's fig-leaf apron.

"... and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy."  Bread represents the written Word, for it is the presentation of Him Who is the living Word, the true Bread which came down from heaven.  The dry bread of the Gibeonites represents the Word, minus the illumination of the Holy Spirit; and without that illumination the Bible is just another book.  There are many who have a head-knowledge of its contents; but without a saving knowledge of the Christ of the Bible, it is simply "dry bread."

In addition to being dry, the bread was also mouldy - and mould is associated with decay and death.  The Scriptures, used as the basis for a lifestyle, no matter how moral, but apart from a saving knowledge of Christ, can only minister death.

9:6.  "And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us."

This is a picture of a sinner coming to Christ, for Joshua we have already seen to be a type of Christ; and Gilgal (the place where the flesh was symbolically cut off), a type of Calvary.  He who would be saved must come to Christ at Calvary, seeing in His death on the cross, the only remedy for sin.

"We be come from a far country."  Their lie as to their country is an apt description of the spiritual state of the unbeliever: he too dwells in "a far country."  He is farther away from God than he could ever comprehend.

"Make ye a league with us."  Apart from that league (covenant) they must die, as must all who are not sheltered under the new covenant sealed with the blood of Christ.

9:7.  "And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?"

The surmise of the men of Israel was far closer to the truth than they imagined, and had they sought counsel from God they wouldn't have been deceived.  They evidently hadn't learned thoroughly the lesson of their first defeat at Ai, which resulted from their failure to consult Him.  We are more foolish than they if we fail to take the lesson to heart.  There is no detail of our lives so trivial that we don't need to seek His direction in regard to it.

These Gibeonites were Hivites meaning showers of life: livers.  They represent those who though unconverted themselves, would nevertheless undertake to show others how to live, the path they advocate being that on which they themselves walk: the broad way that leads to hell.

Their seeking a covenant with Joshua and Israel, however, marks that point in such a man's life where he becomes aware of his true state, and seeks to be saved.

"... and how shall we make a league with you?" ought to remind us that we are to make no league with the flesh, other than that which will bind it under the dominion of the new nature.

9:8.  "And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants.  And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?" 

Their willingness to become servants in order to save their lives is the essence of salvation, for until fear impels a sinner to submit to Christ's control of his life, he cannot be saved.  The professed conversion that hasn't been preceded by fear is suspect.

Joshua's question, Who are ye? is one that every sinner must answer if he would be saved.  We must be willing to admit that we are sinners in desperate need of being saved from hell and fitted for heaven.  And the second question too must be answered, From whence come ye?  We must confess that we come from a ruined root: Adam.

9:9.  "And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the Lord thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt,"

9:10.  "And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth."

The Amorites mean sayers; Sihon sweeping away: scraping away; and his city Heshbon, device: reason.  Since the Amorite represents false profession, all of these combine to warn believers that false profession and human reasoning or intelligence are the foe of those who are of the household of faith.  The meaning of Sihon sweeping or scraping away is the symbolic warning that the evils portrayed by his people and city are capable of sweeping away and destroying the believer's testimony and his enjoyment of his spiritual inheritance.  As Israel was to make war with this enemy and dispossess him, so are we to actively oppose the spiritual evils which he and his people represent.

Heshbon, meaning device: reason, the kingdom of the enemy Sihon, continues to stress the truth that the devices of mere earthly intelligence are all directed against everything pertaining to faith and those who live by it.

Og means hearth cake; Bashan the shame of them: the fertile: the one in sleep; and Ashtaroth double-horned mind readers: double-horned flocks.

In a good connotation the hearth speaks of humility; and cake, of spiritual food; but since this king is the enemy of Israel, the meaning of his name represents something evil, the hearth pointing to earthiness; and cake, not to wholesome spiritual food, but to false doctrine.   Since he is allied with Sihon who represents the schemes and devices of mere corrupt human wisdom, he appears to portray the earthy nature of that wisdom, in regard to which James says, "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish" Jas 3:15.

Bashan clearly speaks not only of the shamefulness connected with mere human intelligence working in opposition to God, but also of the fertility of that earthy evil intellect.  In spite of all the value man sets upon it, however, it is an intellect which relative to spiritual things is asleep.  It knows nothing of them, nor can it ever understand them, as Paul reminds us in 1 Co 2:14, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."  But there will be a dreadful awakening from that sleep when the deluded worldly wise man goes from the darkness of earth into the dazzling brightness of the presence of the God he despised, and discovers in the light of Godís presence the worthlessness of all earthly wisdom.

Ashtaroth meaning double-horned mind readers: double-horned flocks continues to emphasize that the lesson being taught in connection with Sihon and Og has to do with the evil nature of the world's wisdom.  Since a horn is one of the Biblical symbols of power, the double horn points to the dual nature of the world's wisdom: it is not only earthly, but also devilish; mind readers warning us that Satan knows all too well how we think.  The second meaning double-horned flocks may be intended to warn us also that Satan is lord of two flocks: one, the evil spirits of the air; and the other, the masses of humanity who unwittingly serve him.

9:11.  "Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us."

9:12.  "This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldly:"

9:13.  "And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our grments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey."

The decision to go as humble suppliants to meet Joshua before he came to them to destroy them, teaches the imperative of coming in the same manner to be reconciled to God before that day when we will stand in His presence, either as believers to be eternally blessed, or as unbelievers to be eternally damned.

Their dry mouldy bread is a fitting symbol of the only thing the unconverted man has for spiritual bread.  Since moisture is associated with life, the dry state of their bread declares the truth that what the unbeliever thinks is spiritual food, lacks life, and therefore the power to impart life.  Mould speaks of decay and death, so that its being also mouldy warns us that what Satan presents as spiritual bread to the unbeliever not only lacks life and the power to give life: it is also that which brings death.

For the significance of the old wine skins, garments, and shoes, see comments on verses 4 and 5.

9:14.  "And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord."

Were it not that we ourselves are all too often guilty of the same folly it would be difficult to believe that Joshua and Israel could have forgotten so quickly the lesson of their initial defeat at Ai.

9:15.  "And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them."

In this league or covenant which guaranteed them life, we have a symbolic picture of that infinitely better covenant sealed with the blood of Christ, which guarantees us eternal life.  And in the making of that covenant with them, in spite of their as yet undetected dissimulation, we are being pointed to the transcendent grace that moved God to make His eternal immutable covenant with us, even though he had full knowledge of who and what we were, and of all the evil in us.  Human minds can't grasp the magnitude of that love, and mercy, and grace.

9:16.  "And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbors, and that they dwelt among them."

Since three is the Biblical number of resurrection, and since resurrection is followed by the judgment that reveals all things, the good as well as the bad, it reminds us that for believer and unbeliever alike there is a day of resurrection and judgment when all things will be revealed in the light of God's presence.  For the believer, the judgment will be at the Bema, and will result in his being rewarded for his service to Christ, part of that reward being the appointment of his place of service in the administration of Christ when He reigns as King of kings, and Lord of lords.  There will be no judgment of his sins, since Christ has borne that judgment at Calvary.  For the unbeliever, the judgment will be a thousand years later at the great white throne, and will result in his being assigned a degree of torment to be endured eternally in the lake of fire, in proportion to the measure of his sin, he having rejected the pardon offered him while on earth.

This revelation of the Gibeonites' dissimulation therefore, while pointing typologically to the judgment of the believer at the judgment seat of Christ, has a more immediate application.  It speaks also of what follows conversion, when the believer, through faith in Christ, experiences resurrection out of spiritual death into spiritual life.  The three day interval between the Gibeonites' receiving God's word through Joshua, and their having the certainty that it would stand in spite of having been obtained by lies, reflects what is the experience of many a believer.  Not everyone enters into the certainty of his salvation at the moment of conversion.  For most there is the equivalent of the three day interval - a period when we experience doubts as to the certainty of our salvation.

9:17.  "And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day.  Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjath-jearim."

Gibeon means little hill: hilly;  Chephirah, the village: covert; Beeroth, wells; and Kirjath-jearim, city of forests: city of towns.

Since four is the number of earth and testing, there being four Gibeonite cities points symbolically to what is true of all who have faith to trust in God's word: their faith is exercised here on earth in the midst of the testing which reveals the reality of faith.

Since a mountain is the Biblical symbol of a king and/or kingdom, a little hill represents that which is counted of little worth.  Such are the majority of those who trust in Christ as Savior.  Few of earth's great ones are found in that elect company.  These believing Gibeonites were a very small minority amongst the multitudes of the unbelieving Canaanites.

Chephirah means the village: covert (cover, shelter), with lion or lioness as a possible third meaning.  It continues to emphasize what is small and of little account.  A village is a small thing compared with a city; but it is significant that here  the meaning is the village: it isn't just any village, it is unique.  Of further significance is the fact that here the reference is to a village sheltered or "covered" by a wall, the word itself being related to the word kaphar which means to cover: make atonement.  Such is the true Church during this present age: she is of little account in the world, as are also those who constitute her, but she is surrounded by the wall of Godís protecting care, and so is every believer.  Since, then, she is guarded by the mighty power of God: she may be a mere village in the eyes of men, but she is a lioness, as the world will discover on that day when she returns with her Bridegroom, the mighty Lion of Judah when He returns to judge the nations and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.

Beeroth means wells, and wells are symbols of the written Word.  Kirjath-jearim means city of forests: city of towns, and since trees are Biblical symbols of men, and since these small towns are spoken of as being united to constitute a large city, these meanings combine to present a typological picture of men living in the intimate fellowship normally associated with a small town, yet enjoying also the fellowship of the large city composed of those same towns.

The typological picture isn't difficult to discern.  These Gibeonites represent the small minority having the faith to trust in Christ as Savior; and when we combine the meanings of the names of their cities we find the finger of God pointing to a small believing company, of little worth (only a little hill) in the eyes of the world, but precious in His eyes; a unique company, Chephirah (the village, covered), sheltered under the covenant sealed with the precious blood of Christ shed at Calvary to atone for (cover) all their sins, the "well" of the Word (Beeroth) being both the source and the center of their lives, the little individual groups of them (the towns) combining to form a spiritual Kirjath-jearim, a great city.

Such was the believing remnant in the past, and such will it be again in the Tribulation era, and such is the Church today, see for example Re 21:9-27.

These Gibeonites are in the same category as Rahab and Ruth.  Their faith enabled God to save them in spite of the proscription of His holy law, not because He was willing to set His law aside, but because the Lord Jesus Christ bore its penalty on behalf of every man having the faith to trust Him as Savior.  God received them, as He does every beliver of every age, on an absolutely just basis: that of Christ's work completed at Calvary.

9:18.  "And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel.  And all the congregation murmured against the princes."

9:19.  "But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them."

God's word, given on His behalf by Joshua and the elders of Israel, saved the lives of the Gibeonites.  It is on the immutability of that same word that every believer rests for the eternal salvation of his soul.  The congregation might justly "murmur against the princes" for their failure to seek counsel from God, but that failure couldn't negate the covenant given on God's behalf.  The Gibeonites must live, and so do we, though just as guilty as they, for it is written, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" Ro 8:1.

9:20.  "This will we do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them."

This continues to emphasize the immutability of God's word, for the clear implication is that he who would now dare to touch the Gibeonites would himself suffer the wrath of God, i.e., he would die.  Centuries later, Saul in his rebellious folly sought to exterminate the descendants of these Gibeonites, with the result that seven of his own sons were hanged, see 2 Sa 21. 

9:21.  "And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised them."

Whatever their former state, whatever their former employment, they were now to hew wood and draw water for all the congregation of Israel, and in this God is pointing symbolically to another aspect of salvation: believers are saved to serve.  The wood and water were for use in connection with the presentation of the offerings: the wood being used for burning them, and the water being used for washing the different parts as prescribed in Le 1:9, etc., and for washing of the officiating priests, see verse 27.   

Viewing the wood and water from the typological perspective, however, we find an additional truth being presented.  Wood is one of the Biblical symbols of humanity growing in the barren soil of the desert of this world. It is God's wish that every such tree be "cut down" by the Gospel, to be raised up as a new creation in Christ, to walk in newness of life.  A symbolic picture of this is presented in the boards of the Tabernacle.  Once thorny acacia trees growing in the desert, they were cut down, planed and shaped, sheathed in gold, each set up on a block of solid silver, joined to one another by gold covered rods, they formed the walls of the Tabernacle, and as such are a picture of those who comprise the Church.  This points to the responsibility of every believer to be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ by spreading the Gospel.  It is the symbolic portrait of our ministry to the unconverted.

Water is the symbol of the Word as that which cleanses and refreshes, and in the present application may relate to our responsibility to serve our brethren.  It portrays our ministry to the household of faith.  

9:22.  "And Joshua called for them, and he spake unto them, saying, Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you; when ye dwell among us?"

9:23.  "Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God."

"Cursed" here means to be made an execration, i.e., a thing detested or despised, and this too adds yet another stroke to the symbolic portrait of them as representing believers, for as the Lord Himself was an execration to unbelieving Israel, so are believers also lightly esteemed by the world.  It is to be noted also that Joshua appears to have been expressing his own chagrin, for there is nothing to indicate that he was speaking for God when he uttered these words.  On the contrary, in the next chapter we read of God's protecting them from their angry Canaanite neighbors; and there is very good reason to believe that they came to be called the Nethinim, i.e., given ones, because of their having been given to the service of the Tabernacle, see 1 Chr 9:2; and Ezr 2:43,58; 8:20 where they are listed among those who returned from the Babylonian captivity.  The Tabernacle, in fact, was later set up at Gibeon, see 2 Chr 1:3, and for about twenty years it was set up at Kirjath-jearim, see 1 Sa 7:1-2; 2 Sa 6:2-3.

9:24.  "And they answered Joshua, and said, Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the lord thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing."  

It was belief of what God had said, and fear of Him that led them to make salvation their one objective.  The Gospel preacher who fails to insist upon implicit belief of God's threatened judgment, and who fails to instill a fear of God in the hearts of his hearers, is guilty of failing to declare the whole truth of God.  The "gospel" that invites men to "receive Jesus" simply as the Panacea for life's troubles, will produce plenty of professions, but few genuine conversions.  Men get saved only when the fear of God impels them to cry out like the Philippian jailer, "What must I do to be saved?"  Salvation has to do with something infinitely more important than the solution of life's problems: it has to do with the eternal salvation or damnation of the soul.

9:25.  "And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do."

Their complete submission to Joshua, God's representative, is the symbolic announcement of the truth that conversion ought to produce the same transformation in us as is expressed in the words of Saul on the Damascus road, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Ac 9:6, the Lord Himself, in this as in all things, being the supreme Example.  Even as the contemplation of Calvary caused His sweat to become as great drops of blood, and impelled His plea, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:" He concluded His prayer with the words of perfect submission to His Father's will, "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" Mt 26:39.  That same submission ought to mark every believer.

It is instructive to note also that they were willing to have him do to them not only what was good, but also what was right.  It would be well if we were imbued with that same spirit which would enable us to be like Job who rebuked his wife with the words, "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" Job 2:10, particularly since we have the assurance that "all things (the good and the seeming bad) work together for good to them that love God" Ro 8:28.

9:26. "And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not."

9:27.  "And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the Lord, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose."  

Their new work centered around "the altar of the Lord," but since the altar was associated with worship, we are being reminded that important as service is, worship comes first, and true worship is the presentation of an obedient life, as it is written, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" 1 Sa 15:22.

[Joshua 10]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough